Mindfulness is a key component to a student or family member’s journey of overall healing. When we calm ourselves down and sit still, there’s a chance for the unconscious to actually show itself and speak. Mindfulness practices are about developing the capacity to listen more and receive more of what is unconscious and integrate it into our conscious lives.
The premise of meditation is learning to have a healthy mind, and research shows that this happens. Neuroscientific studies have documented anatomical and physiological changes in the brain and cell structure as a result of meditation, including studies on neuroplasticity, showing restoration of gray matter and the healing of the brain.
Mediation gives one the capacity to respond to situations in a way that lines up with one’s values. As one develops mental strength, he or she may be better able to resist an addiction craving down the road. Ultimately, this non-reactivity and awareness are what lead people to live fulfilled lives.
Norman earned his BS in Business Management from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Following the death of his mother, he considered her parting advice about doing work that really helps people and began his career in wilderness therapy as a field instructor.
As an immigrant from the Philippines, becoming educated and assimilating into American society has driven Norman to work hard, adapt, and feel a tremendous sense of gratitude for being a U.S. citizen. As such, he has enjoyed tremendous opportunities; one of the most meaningful was to help found Open Sky.
Norman takes great pride and pleasure in helping Open Sky parents understand their child’s work. He assists parents in developing the same basic skill sets including emotional regulation, assertive communication, and effective boundary holding, all of which are crucial in parenting. Norman facilitates Open Sky’s Wellness Weekends, parent support calls, graduations, meditation instruction, and field guide training.
Meditation has been a cornerstone of Norman’s life. With prior study and practice in the Southeast Asian Theravada tradition beginning in 1995, Norman has been studying and training as a meditation instructor in the Tibetan tradition since 2001. Norman is a certified meditation teacher with the Dharma Ocean Foundation.
“Most people’s thoughts are 80% negative, so there’s this negative tape that’s playing all the time, and if we don’t know we’re doing it, we’re actually bringing ourselves down. We’re making ourselves more anxious. We’re making things more complicated than they need to be, and that’s all thinking, so if we don’t know that we’re doing that, we have a lot of struggle.”
“Emotional regulation is a superpower, so the one thing that we have to get really clear is that we are not teaching people how to control their emotions or suppress their emotions. We’re teaching people to notice them and then to have the capacity to actually feel them without freaking out or shutting down.”
“Instead of planning whatever it is you want to say, you actually listen enough so you could reflect back on something they tell you, that is a serious mindfulness practice.”
On a wilderness trip in Alaska with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in 1995, Emily discovered she could combine two of her passions: working with youth and being outdoors. Since then, she has worked for Aspen Achievement Academy, Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, and Connecticut Wilderness School. She was part of the founding team at Open Sky.
Emily worked as the lead therapist for adolescent girls for her first 5 years at Open Sky. Her areas of clinical expertise include depression, anxiety, grief and loss, trauma, self-harm, disordered eating, and adoption and attachment issues. Her clinical approach is informed by cognitive behavioral, psychodynamic, family systems, and attachment theories. Relationship building through letter writing is a major focus of her work with students and families.
As a founder and owner of Open Sky, as well as the Clinical and Executive Director, Emily brings a breadth of knowledge with her background as a therapist, field guide, trainer, logistics coordinator, emergency responder, and field director, Emily is known for her direct, caring leadership style, her ability to inspire excellence in others, and her team oriented approach. The student treatment plan is her compass for her decision-making regarding Open Sky’s students, families, and employees.
Emily loves reading, writing, yoga, mountain biking, telemark skiing, rock climbing, spending time with friends and family, and cooking with foods from the local farmers’ market.